Turkey – a land of UNESCO World Heritage Sites

UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Turkey

Turkey has 16 sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List. These include the magnificent Ephesus, Istanbul and Pamukkale. Many of the sites are popular due to being located within well known tourist areas.

Hierapolis – Pamukkale

img_0029Pamukkale is situated in the Denizli Province in Southwestern Turkey. Because of the trickle of hot spring water this has resulted in a “cotton castle” of terraced pools. Consequently Pamukkale has been used as a spa site for at least 2200 years. The Roman town of Heirapolis was built above the springs and it ruins remain today.

Selimiye Mosque and its Social Complex

The Selimiye Mosque is found in Edirne, an ancient city near the borders of Greece and Bulgaria. It was built between 1569 and 1575 by the famous architect Mimas Sinan. Sinan regarded this to be his greatest work. When you consider that he built 79 mosques, 34 palaces, 33 public baths and 19 tombs. As well as 55 schools, 16 poorhouses, 7 madrasahs and 12 caravansaries. Among the most noteworthy, the Blue Mosque and worked on Topkapi Palace. The Selimiye Mosque is quite some masterpiece.

Goreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia

Goreme National Park is situated in the centre of Turkey, in Anatolia. The national park and its surrounding areas are one of the most img_0028unusual and spectacular landscapes on earth. The ‘fairy chimneys’ of Cappadocia are sculpted through erosion. The soft stone, known as tufa has a hard crust allowing the wind and rain to erode the underneath. Humans have inhabited the landscape since the Bronze Age, carving dwellings and monasteries into the soft stone.

The City of Safranbolu

The city of Safranbolu became a key stop on the Ottoman trade route between Europe and the Orient. Many of the buildings in the old Carsi district are well preserved today. Mosques, bath houses, schools, tombs, fountains, an inn and numerous houses. There are also rock tombs and historic bridges. The city is also known for its production of saffron, hence the name. Production continues today in the surrounding villages and is considered some of the finest in the world.

Hattusha: the Hittite capital

From approximately 1600 to 1180BC the Hittites controlled an empire that spanned the majority of modern day Turkey and areas of Mesopotamia and Levant. The capital was Hattusha, found today in the Black Sea region. The ancient civilisation built its city on top of a hill, surrounded by walls and carved stone gateways. Many of these survive today, with the Lion Gate being the best preserved.

The Historic Areas of Istanbul

The only city in the world to span two continents, Istanbul has seen empires rise and fall. There are four areas within Istanbul that are listed by UNESCO
Archaeological Park: this includes the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, the Hippodrome and ancient churches.
The Suleymaniye Quarter: including the grand Sezhade, Suleymaniye mosques and the Valens Aqueductimg_0032
Zeyrek Quarter: including the Pantocrator Monastry. Constructed of two churches and a chapel, it is the second largest Byzantine, religious building still standing in Istanbul. Formerly an Eastern Orthodox place of worship it became mosque after the fall of Constantinople. After a period of disrepair, it is undergoing extensive renovation.
Zone of the Ramparts: including the remains of the fortifications constructed by Theodosius II.


Ephesus served as the capital of the Kingdom of Arzawa from 1500BC. It fell under Greek control and many of the structures seen today are from the Roman period. Ephesus was one of the largest cities in the Roman Empire. It was the site of the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the world. It was also home to the Apostles Paul and John. The resting place of the Virgin Mary and the place that Paul baptised 12 disciples. The Library of Celsus, the Great Theatre and the Basilica of St John are among the well preserved sites that remain.

Nemrut Dagi

Within part of the Eastern Taurus mountain range, stands the 7000ft Mount Nemrut. At the summit there were statues, mounds of stones and terraces. The tumulus of stones stands at 49 metres tall. All suggesting the construction of a royal tomb from the first century BC. The enormous heads of the statues were rediscovered in 1881. Having at some point been removed from the bodies. The site is only accessible during the summer months due to the amount of snow in the winter. One reason that the site may have stayed so well preserved.

Archaeological Site of Troy

The setting for the epic Trojan War as described in the Iliad by Homer.
After years of battle the Greeks set sail a thousand ships. They were img_0031headed for modern day Turkey. Their mission, to recapture Helen of Troy. The legend states that they built a giant wooden horse and pretended to surrender. The Trojans paraded the horse as a victory trophy. That night the Greeks, who had been hidden inside, crept out. They finally took control of the cit and therefore recaptured Helen.

Great Mosque and Hospital of Divrigi

Situated in central Eastern Turkey Divrigi was one of the earliest Turkish conquests in Anatolia. The Great Mosque was constructed in 1228AD. The imposing building contains stone gates, columns and vaulted ceilings. The hospital is equally as impressive and was founded at the same time. The complex is considered to be one the most important works of architecture in Anatolia.

Pergamon and its Multi-Layered Cultural Landscape

Founded in the 3rd Century BC Pergamon was the capital of the Attalid dynasty. Included in the site were a theatre, three terraced gymnasium and the Great Altar. Also the tumult, pressured water pipelines, the city walls and the Kybele Sanctuary.

The Neolithic Site of Catalhoyuk

Catalhoyuk has been credited with the birth of agriculture. In approximately 9000BC our nomadic ancestors settled into this land. Therefore they began creating permanent villages. This is the site of the first known human settlement. It compromises of domestic buildings with img_0030a population of 10,000 people at its height. The structures were mud brick dwellings. There were few doors at ground level. As a result homes were accessed from the rooftops.
Although no temples have been found murals and figurines have been discovered throughout the settlement.

Diyarbakir Fortress and Hevsel Gardens

Diyarbakir is situated in the Fertile Crescent, the location between the mighty Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Regarded as ‘the Cradle of Civilisation ‘ by historians. The site consists of the old city walls and fortress, watchtowers and the gates of the fortress. The walls were constructed in the 4th century AD. The widest and longest defensive walls in the world bar the Great Wall of China.

Bursa and Cumalikizik:Birth of the Ottoman Empire

In the establishment of the Ottoman Empire, Bursa became its first city. It was managed by the first Ottoman sultans. The site illustrates the creation of an urban and rural system that the Ottomans established in the 14th century. The society revolved around a civic centre. Integrating mosques, schools, public baths, and a kitchen. The area also contains the tomb of Orhan Ghazi, the founder of the Ottoman dynasty.

Xanthos – Letoon

Xanthos was the centre of the Lycian empire, a Late Bronze Age civilisation in southern Turkey. It is situated near the modern day Patara. The ruins of the city are atop a hill. The river Xanthos flowing beneath the hill. Today the twin Sites of Xanthos and Letoon hold the Harpy Tomb, Pillar Tomb, Xanthian Obelisk, Amphitheatre, an Acropolis, Byzantine street, a Basilica and a Necropolis. In 450BC it fell to the Persians and was eventually overtaken by the Greeks and then the Romans.

Historic City of Ani

The history of Ani goes back to 500BC. In 900AD the city was a major stop on the Silk Road trading route. Now found in Turkey, between 961 and 1045 it was the img_0034capital of the Bagratid Armenian kingdom. It was known as ‘the City of 1001 Churches’. Ani was ravaged by the Mongols and then virtually destroyed by an earthquake. Today the cathedral, Surp Stephanie Church, the Church of St Gregory of Tigray Honet and the Church of the Holy Redeemer. The Church of St Gregory of the Abughamrents, King Gagik’s Church of St Gregory, the Church of the Holy Apostles, the citadel and the city walls remain.

About Author



Leave a Reply